Medieval Clothing was one of the more important parts of any ruling empire during medieval times. During this period the Medieval Clothing styles that people wore kept changing, the main reason for this was that the king demanded it and it was easier to do as new materials such as fabric were being introduced during the Medieval period.
The king could now make his empire unique, stand out from others by using different colour combinations, and at the same time have the citizens wearing clothes that would differentiate them amongst themselves. New types of Medieval Clothing would also protect them from hot, cold or wet weather which led to medieval people being happier in general.
Medieval hats were popular with medieval people however they were fairly basic in the design as the medieval period progressed medieval hat design became more elaborate. Read more about the Medieval Hats >>
All people in medieval society tended to wear different styles of medieval shoes, medieval shoes were often made of leather but as more materials became available medieval shoe design became more advanced. Read more about the Medieval Shoes >>
The simplest forms of medieval clothing appeared at the beginning of the medieval period, in the 5th century. The first users of clothing during these times were the Anglo-Saxons who wore their dresses during the migrations to Great Britain and lasted until the beginning of the Norman Conquest when Norman clothing became influential and became more popular amongst the people.
Early Medieval Clothing made from Wool, Linen and Silk.
Wool was the coarse material being used in this period for almost all Medieval Clothing garments, people were given clothes that were suited to their current social status in medieval society, slaves and poorer peasants were only able to use wool as a type of fabric for their garments.
Peasants considered wealthier than their counterparts such as Reeves were allowed to wear linen, which was previously harvested from the flax plant. Linen would now be used for Medieval Clothing instead of wool; it made the clothes more comfortable because the linen touched the skin and not the coarse wool.
Silk was also discovered in this early medieval period, however it was a very expensive material to use and was only found amongst the very rich, for decorative purposes mainly to decorate Medieval Clothing.
Rapid Changes in Medieval Clothing occurred from 11th Century
There were some very significant changes that happened to Medieval clothing from the year 1100. Before this century, clothes were used as a way to recognise someone and to understand his standing in the Feudal system and social status amongst the group of people.
Medieval Clothing from the 12th Century for Men
During the 12th century in Europe medieval clothing and costumes were simple and the only difference was in the small details. The types of Medieval costumes that were used were divided into menswear and womenswear.
The men wore knee-length tunics for almost all activities, and the men from the upper classes wore long tunics with hose and mantles or cloaks.
The short costumes derived from melding the everyday dress of the Roman Empire and the short tunics that were worn by invading barbarians, the long costumes were descended from melding the clothes of the upper Roman empire classes and were influenced by Byzantine dresses.
The underclothes of Medieval men’s Clothes consisted of an inner tunic or a shirt with long tight sleeves which were usually made of linen since it offered the most comfort.
The leggings that were made of separate garments for each leg were made of cloth and were worn with a tunic. On the outside the men wore an outer tunic which reached to the knees or ankles and it was fastened to the belt of the person.
The men of these times usually did not wear any headgear. For protection of their head they would usually use cloaks which were attached to their outer tunic.
Medieval Clothing From the 12th Century for Women
Women wore long tunics or gowns in this medieval period. A close fit to the body, full skirts, and long flaring sleeves that were characteristic of upper class fashion for both men and women.
The under-tunic of the women was called a chemise, which was made of linen, and over it, a long ankle-reaching tunic was worn.
Women that were working wore their ankle length tunics strapped to their belts. All the married women who followed the Christian customs wore veils over their hair, which was stationed in the centre of the hair and was then hung down in long braids that then made it possible to extend it with false hair.
An item called the wimple was introduced in England in the late century that was made of a linen cloth that covered the throat and was fastened under the veil.
Medieval Clothing During the 13th century
During the thirteenth century in medieval Europe clothing became very simple for both men and women. Both male and female Medieval clothing was relatively similar and changed very slowly.
The most significant thing that started happening during this period was the dyeing of wool that continued to be the most important material for clothes.
For rich people colour was a very important factor for their clothes and when the colour blue was introduced it became a very fashionable option which was adopted by the Kings of France as their heraldic color.
14th Century Medieval Clothing Fashion
The fourteenth century marked the start of fashion for medieval clothing for both men and women. This was started when different experimentations with different types of Medieval clothes were used to dress a certain individual.
The simple draped garments and the straight seams of the earlier centuries were replaced by curved seams and led to the beginnings of tailoring, this resulted in simpler designs of human clothing that could fit anyone, and not just individuals.
The introduction of fur also made an appearance and was mostly used for inner linings for warmth because this century was hit by a Medieval mini ice age and the weather was very unpleasant at times.
The men wore a few layers of clothing on them. The innermost layer of clothing was the breeches that were loose undergarments made of linen and held up by a belt.
The shirt was the next layer, made of linen. The hose made out of wool main purpose was to cover the legs in bright colors. The men also wore a jacket called a doublet that was about a hip length and had buttons.
A tunic worn over the doublet was usually made of wool. The first fashionable hats were beginning to make an appearance and the previous hoods, transformed into wearable hats.
The women wore a few layers of clothing and the first layer was classed as underwear. A linen or woolen chemise, loosely garmented and the first types of bras made an appearance called the Breast Girdle.
Although underwear was invented, men and women of all classes slept naked until the late 16th century where special nightwear was invented. Over the chemise, women wore a gown called a kirtle that was foot length.
For further customization decorations and other layers of clothes would be added above the chemise and jewels started to make an appearance on women’s clothes.
For outdoors, cloaks and mantles for women made of fur were popular. All married women had to cover their head to show that they were taken.
15th Century Medieval Clothing – Extravagant and Extreme Clothing
During the fifteenth century, fashion was characterised by a series of extremes and extravagances and the houppelandes were among the first floor sweeping costumes introduced at the beginning of this era of extreme clothes.
The most extravagant clothing during this medieval period was the revealing doublet-sand hose in Italy. Hats, cloaks, hoods and other headdresses started to increase importance among the people and thus were swaged, jeweled, colored, feathered.
For the first time people strived to be very fashionable among their surroundings, especially women and the terms “out of date" started appearing to describe other people who wore medieval clothes that were from another time.
Medieval Clothing Summary
So as we can see Medieval clothing changed dramatically during Medieval Times from the simple costumes of the early medieval period to the introduction of more advanced materials such as linen and silk which gave more choice later on.
Finally, we had the late medieval period where people had more choice and wealth and this led to a period where medieval clothing was seen as more of a way to show off one’s wealth and status than for any practical purpose.